Najib’s appointment a new low for Malaysia

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The appointment of former prime minister Najib Tun Razak as chairman of the Barisan Nasional (BN) backbenchers club in parliament once again draws attention to the moral decay gnawing away at the soul of our nation. It should tell us in no uncertain terms that our political system has become a cauldron of iniquitous and unethical behaviour. 

It is simply mind-boggling that someone who has only recently been convicted – convicted mind you — of one count of power abuse, three counts of criminal breach of trust and three counts of money laundering and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment could be appointed to an influential parliamentary position. 

Does the dictionary not call someone who has been convicted of a crime a “criminal”? Didn’t the trial judge call it “the worst kind” abuse of position. Is Najib not facing dozens of additional very serious criminal charges stemming from what could very possibly be the largest heist of public funds in our history? Sure he may be appealing the conviction but that does not diminish the gravity of his conviction.

And what does it say of the scruples of UMNO-BN leaders that they would appoint such a man to lead their caucus? Does UMNO-BN care so little about integrity, accountability and honour? Are their consciences so seared that they can no longer discern right from wrong? Are they so focused on the politics of the moment that they cannot see the enormous damage they are doing to the moral fibre of our nation? 

By appointing him to the post, UMNO-BN is whitewashing his criminality and glossing over his betrayal of the nation’s trust. They are giving him a patina of respectability he does not deserve;  allowing him the opportunity to burnish his phoney stature as national leader. It is disgraceful even by our already appallingly low standards. Lim Kit Siang is absolutely right when he said that the appointment would “plunge the Malaysian Parliament into new shame and infamy.”

Clearly, nothing is sacred anymore. The more religious we become the more dishonourably we behave.  What little standards of integrity and professionalism we once had are gone. In its place is an ugly anything-goes culture that is all too ready to sacrifice principle on the altar of political expediency.

The blurring of the line between right and wrong has been going on for some time now. Politicians have lied and misled the public about their educational qualifications. They’ve thumbed their noses at laws and regulations that the rest of us must obey on pain of penalty. They’ve preached virtue but practiced deceit. They’ve talked about integrity even as they’ve gorged themselves on the public pursue. And they get away with it because few care enough to call them out.

Perhaps the die is already cast; outrageous behaviour, unethical standards, a lack of integrity in public office is the new normal and is here to stay. Alas, that “beacon of light” that Tengku Abdul Rahman proudly announced to the world in his independence proclamation is no more. 

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 3rd November 2020]